INDIANAPOLIS -- Lawrence Township school officials are concerned about the lack of guidance from the Indiana High School Athletic Association regarding policy for student athletes and their behavior during the national anthem.
According to the Brett Crousore, Principal of Lawrence North High School, two IHSAA referees told players from Lawrence Central and Cathedral High schools, “there would be no disrespect during the national anthem” at the Class 4A Volleyball Actions held last weekend at Lawrence North.
Crousore says to his knowledge, none of the players competing in the sectionals planned to demonstrate during the anthem.
“I think people should have the right to express disagreement if they want to,” said Alan Witchey, parent. “That's what our country is based on. The minute we stop allow that to happen we change this country and the foundation of who and what we are.”
Another parent disagreed.
“I think there are ways to show your disagreement without disrespecting something else,” said Vouch Minnich, parent.
Bobby Cox, IHSAA commissioner released this statement:
“The IHSAA is silent on the topic of behaviors exhibited by participants at an athletic contest during the presentation of the National Anthem. The IHSAA by-laws provide support in Rules 3 and 8 with respect to conduct and the authority vested with the Principal to enforce such accepted behaviors. It is the sincere desire of the IHSAA that all participants at an education based athletic event demonstrate proper respect and attention during the presentation of our National Anthem while respecting the rights of individual freedoms of expression.”
Cox says referees are not allowed to make comments about behavior during the National Anthem competing teams.
Licensed IHSAA officials have no authority to disqualify teams if players express their belief under the First Amendment, said Cox.
Witchey said he wants his daughter to have the freedom to choose.
“Kneeling is a peaceful way to express a view,” he said. “It's not violent it's not disrespectful.”
The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township released a statement Tuesday:
“The situation that occurred on Saturday morning prior to the Lawrence Central/Cathedral Sectional Volleyball game was the result of comments made around possible disqualification by officials assigned to the tournament by the IHSAA. Comments to players were around student behavior and respect, including for the flag and national anthem. Administration from both the host site, Lawrence North High School, and team affected, Lawrence Central High School, have communicated their concerns to the IHSAA.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported the volleyball players were from Lawrence North's high school. The volleyball players were not from Lawrence North, they were playing at Lawrence North.